Spring is here and many people in Virginia are looking forward to being able to spend time outdoors, especially once summer rolls around. Many people will have a drink or two at a barbecue, a wedding or a holiday celebration. These people may feel safe to drive, especially if they believe that their blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit. However, even if a person’s BAC is below the legal limit, it may still be possible for a person to be charged with driving under the influence.

Most Virginians understand that if they are driving and are pulled over by police and a breath test shows that their BAC is 0.08% or higher, they can be charged with DUI. This is known as DUI per se, and it generally means that no further evidence is needed to prosecute the driver. However, even if a motorist’s BAC is below 0.08%, he or she may still be charged with DUI if the officer believes that the motorist is driving under the influence of alcohol in a manner that poses a danger to the driver or other motorists on the road.

Officers in such situations may look for common symptoms of alcohol impairment. For example, the motorist’s eyes might be bloodshot, and their face may be flushed. They may smell of alcohol and they may be slurring their speech or are unable to understand the officer’s questions. They may fumble when trying to reach their license or vehicle registration. If asked to exit their vehicle, they may stagger, sway or be unable to keep their balance. They may be combative or disoriented. All these symptoms, and more, could be used to show a motorist was under the influence.

So, people in Virginia who are planning on having a drink or two this spring or summer at a celebration or during a night out on the town should understand the risks they take if they get behind the wheel of a car. While it is possible to defend yourself when you are accused of DUI, for example by challenging the legality of the traffic stop or the officer’s observations, the best defense is not to drink too much in the first place. Those who are facing charges of DUI will want to make sure they seek legal advice, which this post does not provide, so they can make decisions regarding their defense that are in their best interests.